The cause of rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes severe joint pain and joint deformation, is unknown. It would appear that RA occurs when the white blood cells in the body begin to attack joint tissue.The reason for this seems to be exposure to an infection.
What makes some people responsive to this infection and what leaves other unaffected is not clear, but the susceptibility to the condition could be genetic, while the disease itself is not. There is some correlation between smoking and RA, with smokers at an increased risk to develop RA. Women are also significantly more likely to develop RA than men, particularly between the ages of 20-50.
As an inflammatory arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis has symptoms that correlate with arthritis but also have additional side effects. RA is characterized by joint paint/stiffening/ache/swelling, fatigue, loss of motion and strength, fever, and joint deformity. Additional side effects may include swelling of other tissue including the lining of the heart and lungs, the lungs themselves or blood vessels.
RA can also cause rheumatoid nodules, which appear as lumps of varying sizes beneath the skin at relevant points. The lumps are usually painless. RA usually begins sometime after age 20 and starts in smaller joints, such as the hands and feet, and moves to larger joints as the disease progresses. It is common for pain to occur on symmetrical sides of the body.
RA is a chronic disease. Once it occurs, it does not go away. It surfaces at varying times in flare-outs, but will go into periods of remission where the symptoms will significantly lessen or altogether disappear. Continual inflammation of joins can release proteins that thicken and damage the lining tissue and deform the joints.
Clear means to prevent RA do not exist, but given that RA is mostly suffered by women, it would be wise for women to be more weary of symptoms than men. Women who have a family history of RA should avoid smoking, as smoking has been shown to correlate with instances of RA. Since an infection seems the likely trigger for the disease, supporting a healthy immune system and taking preventative measures against infection and promoting healthy joint tissue may be useful. This would be especially beneficial to people who are attempting to avoid progression of the disease to the point where they would require joint replacement surgery. Supplements are available for RA which, as they are all-natural, contain none of the negative side effects that so often plague advanced patients of RA (Several RA medications have circulatory complications, cause damage to kidneys/liver or cause stomach bleeding).
Photo Credit: qwghlm